The Best Individual Cubs Seasons and Other Bullets

derrek_lee-cubsSo, who wants to talk about something other than a mascot for a few minutes?

  • At CBS, Matt Snyder came up with the all-time single-season Cubs team – as in, the best single seasons at each position. It’s a fantastically fun read, and the kind that is ripe for debate. That magnificent Rick Wilkins season in 1993? That’s actually debatably not the best catcher season in the history of the Cubs (thanks to Gabby Hartnett). That unbelievable Derek Lee season in 2005? Ok, yeah, that was the best first base season. Did you know that Carlos Marmol put together a 2.8 win season (2010) as a reliever? That’s nuts.
  • It’s surprising to see the list of pitching seasons (five of them, for starters) without a Kerry Wood mention, but Snyder’s right. I didn’t realize until now looking back that Wood didn’t really have any over-the-top, ridiculously awesome individual seasons. He was great in 1998 (Rookie of the Year) and again in 2003, but his WAR those years was just 4.2 and 3.9. Compare that to Mark Prior’s 2003 season, which netted a 7.5 WAR. Even Carlos Zambrano was actually better, in terms of WAR, than Wood in the 2003 season (4.4 to 3.9). Man, that’s a crapton of wins from just three pitchers … that 2003 rotation was so good … oh no, I’m spiraling into a 2003 season depression …
  • Bruce Miles reports it’s bon voyage to Rafael Dolis, who has been signed to a minor league deal by the Giants. The promising reliever couldn’t get his walks under control enough to harness the value of his awesome sinker, and then he got hurt last year when he may have had a chance to stick.
  • An interesting FanGraphs read on how teams have approached Carlos Gomez – far more first pitch strikes than usual – given how well he crushes first pitch strikes. Are the scouting reports just wrong on him? Why is it happening?
  • Alex Rodriguez has officially filed suit in federal court to try and have the arbitrator’s decision thrown out.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

40 responses to “The Best Individual Cubs Seasons and Other Bullets”

  1. Jim
  2. chifords2000

    Jon Heyman tweets “worst thing about arod/arod lawyers claims: attack on kind, revered, deceased union leader mike weiner, who tried to aid him”, which just takes the whole situation down three more notches.

  3. Blake Z

    I remember when Rafael Dolis was once considered a top 10 Cubs prospect. Our farm system has come a long way since 2011. Best of luck to him.

  4. Spoda17

    Brett, that article is a good read.

    Based on the past few season, it’s easy to forget we had some very good players in the not too distant past. I also see it as yet another example on how in order to survive in MLB now and for decades to come, you must have an ever-productive/top-notch farm system.

    I think history (not just Cubs history) has proven that plucking some high priced players without a true plan just does not work. Yes, FA are needed, and sometimes you have to grab that high priced dude, but without a solid foundation, it’s just throwing good money after bad…

  5. ssckelley

    Is there anybody that wants to see ARod play baseball ever again? I also cannot help but wonder if ARod is not opening up a huge can of worm involving the Feds.

    1. half_full_beer_mug

      I really don’t care if I see ARod in a baseball uniform again or not. I am glad that he’s opening up this can of worms though. I think he was railroaded in what MLB calls a process and was treated very unfairly when compared to other players that have done very similar things.

      Recruiting? So if someone asks if you know a good lawyer and you refer them to a friend are you recruiting? If that that person turns out to run a Ponzi scheme should you be punished? Also, don’t act like everyone that had “a guy” wasn’t telling their friends about him as well.

      Obstruction of an investigation? So he tried to buy the same thing that MLB was trying to buy? Double standard here? I think so.

      1. ssckelley

        But both sides agree to an arbitrator and the arbitrator reviewed both sides and lowered the suspension to 162 games instead of 212. So ARod is now unhappy with the ruling, tough cookies, you agreed to going to an arbitrator but now you want to back out? I think he needs to stfu and feel fortunate that he has not had the remainder of his contract voided. At the end of the day he is still owed another 60 million.

        I agree that MLB is not innocent in this entire process, in fact I believe Selig knows a lot more that went on than what he is letting on and did what he thought was “saving baseball”. But until something else comes out it is all speculation.

      2. Cheese Chad

        I don’t know if you watched the 60 minutes thing but apparently (whether you believe it or not) an A-rod lawyer paid Bosch to move out of the country I think. Again, if you believe it, but the arbitrator did so that is ABSOLUTELY obstruction.

        1. ssckelley

          If I needed to move out of the country to lay low for a while I do not think I would pick Columbia as a destination. But on the other hand it is hard to believe everything Bosch says as well but usually where there is smoke there is fire.

          1. woody

            Colombia is a lot safer than it used to be. Cartagena is pretty safe and some really old forts and neat stuff.

            1. ssckelley

              But if someone with shaddy ties encourages me to go there I will pass.

    2. rcleven

      I could care less if I see ARod play again. What I don’t want to see is the Yankees finding a way to get out last three years of ARods contract. All money owed ARod should count against there cap till his contract expires at the end of the 17 season.

      1. JB88

        How much less?

      2. ssckelley

        I hate seeing the Yankees get out of paying that stupid contract as well but I would rather see that happen than for ARod to ever play another game of baseball.

        1. Scotti

          It seems that a compromise of allowing the team to not actually pay the suspended individual but still counting the allotted payment against any caps would, to a small extent, keep the large market teams from going nuts on stupid contracts. It would at least put a bug in their ear.

          1. JB88

            I’d add that, allowing the Yankees to get out from under his contract—while likely knowing that ARod was using steriods and, at a minimum, benefitting from his use of steriods—is flawed IMO.

            1. Scotti

              Actually PAYING the player would be far more flawed. Counting it against the caps actually does real hurt to those big market teams that wind up buying the PED guys (perpetuating the cycle).

              1. JB88

                I agree with the idea that the club shouldn’t be required to pay the player.

          2. hansman

            Well that rule would have impacted 1 team and 1 player thus far.

            1. Scotti

              Perhaps. However, there is no telling if teams would be/would have been more circumspect in handing out other large contracts to other players they “suspected” of use.

  6. fiiiiiiiitz

    That best Cubs seasons ever piece is a great read. Only real comment is that I wish Geo’s 2010 season was mentioned. People call him a one hit wonder a lot but he was arguably better that year than in his rookie year.

  7. woody

    My favorite guy in the not so distant past was Aramis Ramirez. I hated to see him go to the brewers, but in hindsight it was for the best. He drove in a lot of runs as a cub.

  8. Greenroom

    I do not like Selig, plain and simple. But to say Arod has done very similar things as other players is not being realistic. The 60 minutes report was just ridiculous. They have 100′s of pages of texts between him and Bosch. They hired federal agents to investigate the case, not just 1 guy. While Bosch’s credibility is debatable, the evidence is not. Bosch knew how to get Arod to cheat without getting caught. I guess that is the point of cheating. The old saying in Nascar, if you aren’t cheating, you are not trying. (I cannot believe I just cited Nascar fans). Bosch claims he threatened his life. Bosch claims he was going to send him to another country to keep out of trouble. From what I have read, MLB offered Arod a deal. He refused. Pretty simple. We know you cheated, you cheated, own up to it. Arod’s own narcissism is really to blame. Arod’s jealousy of wanting to be accepted and revered is also to blame. He cheated and shows no remorse or accountability. See Palmeiro? He gets what he deserves.

    I hope the federal case brings more of his BS into the open. Good riddance.

  9. Jon

    I always cite Lee’s 2005 season as the prime example on how useless the RBI stat is.

    1. Scotti

      As part of the original Bill James crowd, I’ve said for decades that RBI are overrated but I would not go so far as to say it is a useless stat. Lee was, for instance, 7th in RBI that year. If he had been 27th with an extremely low slashline with runners in scoring position that could be an indication of a cat trying to do too much (not settling for the single to drive in the run) or just a guy who gets nervous in RBI situations.

      Yes, RBI and Runs are team oriented stats. But what happens if a team has a ton of guys getting on base ahead of a #4 hitter and he has few RBI? Dudes need to produce. Even Theo and Jed talk about RBI, as well they should. An overrated stat (at least formerly), to be sure, but not a useless stat.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        I would suggest a reverse explanation if one could truly demonstrate a guy getting significantly fewer RBI than expected.* Instead of “settling for a single,” I would suggest that it indicates that the guy actually changed his approach. After all, singles are largely by-products of balls put into play that elude fielders: the difference that speed or how hard the ball is hit rarely accounts for as many as 10 singles in a year. (Of course, the speed factor might even make it misleading: a plethora of infield singles will mean more singles that could not drive home a guy from second than expected.)

        *: I seriously doubt that this would ever happen. The proportion of base-runners that any one batter drives varies hugely not just from year-to-year, but month-to-month.

        1. Scotti

          “I would suggest that it indicates that the guy actually changed his approach.”

          Well, we agree on this much. Players often change their approach by looking to kill the ball in RBI situations. Simply staying within their game–taking singles and the rest of what normally occurs in their basic approach–would generate RBI whereas trying to kill/pull/get loft/what-have-you the ball simply plays into the pitcher’s hands.

          1. DocPeterWimsey

            If that were true, then K-rates would go up a lot for those players. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find players who K significantly more often with men in scoring position than they do otherwise. This likely is an illusion created by the fact that teams often put big sluggers behind high OBP guys. The “selectively aggressive” types take big hacks with men in scoring position: as well as when nobody is on base. However, people selectively remember the big swings and misses with men on base, when the actual results show that they are K’ing (and usually walking) at indistinguishable frequencies in any partitioning of PAs. (Obviously, success rates as a whole are a little higher with RiSP: but that’s because pitchers who let a lot of men on base are more prone to be pitching with RiSP, which means that PAswRiSP are nonrandomly involving pitchers with a propensity to not get outs.)

            The only good cases are the “deliberate ground out to 2nd” (a.k.a., the oxymoronic “productive outs”) specialists. They have reduced BA with RiSP more more than half the time because of this. (Tactically sound teams don’t have players do this, which probably gives them a few extra runs a year.)

            1. Scotti

              “If that were true, then K-rates would go up a lot for those players. ”

              Or ground outs to the SS/3B (2B/1B for lefties), fly balls to the track, weak liners, pop ups, etc. There is no reason to single out K’s as the only undesirable outcome. K’s are not the only result of not taking what is being given to you as a hitter. When a hitter is trying to do too much or, of course, pressing, he will have certain numbers go down and, possibly, certain numbers go up (when Choi came up with the Cubs he was so intimidated by MLB LHP that ALL he tried to do against LHP was walk).

              Again, as I showed with Votto, certain players just don’t get the job done when it comes to RBI. Sometimes this is temporary and some times a guy is just easy pickin’s throughout his career. Perhaps they feel undue pressure (the weight is on their backs) and they freeze or perhaps they try to do too much (they don’t have a healthy sense of team). For whatever reason, for some players, the job winds up not getting done. (This is the kind of thing that advanced scouting is all over).

            2. Hee Seop Chode

              I call BS:

              “If that were true, then K-rates would go up a lot for those players. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find players who K significantly more often with men in scoring position than they do otherwise.”

              That’s stated with a lot of confidence. Have you ever looked up those numbers?

      2. hansman

        “But what happens if a team has a ton of guys getting on base ahead of a #4 hitter and he has few RBI?”

        I bet that would indicate a guy who isn’t hitting very well.

        RBIs are just like Wins. The good players will tend to have a lot of them but the analysis of the player breaks down pretty quick when you use them and considering we live during a time where every stat thought of is available on the internet, there is no reason to use RBIs (or Wins)

        1. Scotti

          “I bet that would indicate a guy who isn’t hitting very well.”

          Or you wind up with a Joey Votto who had a 94 tOPS+ relative to his overall OPS+ in runners on situations last year (a significant 332 PA). THAT relative to his career tOPS+ in those situations (123) is rather stark (which includes his 2013 numbers). Regular OPS+ on the season was 154. His overall career OPS is 155.

          His career 123 tOPS+ with RISP (989 PA) indicates a guy who presses. His 94 OPS+ in 332 PA is an even deeper sign that he pressed and his low RBI total from last year reflect that. Again, RBI is simply one of many stats and is not shunned by cats like Bill James, Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer. Used in context there is nothing wrong with RBI.

          1. Hee Seop Chode

            “Isn’t it at least possible, if not likely, that teams can turn a blind eye, and benefit from enhanced player abilities?”

            In the case of Tony Larussa it was a ticket to the HOF

            1. Bill

              Very true. Is their a manager who had more big name players who juiced? BTW, I know it’s impossible to know this for sure because of lack of drug testing, confidentiality, etc.

      3. Jon

        7th in the NL. 17th in all of baseball.

        1. Scotti

          And apples to apples is the appropriate comparison here. The guy hit third in the NL (pitcher in the 9-hole) not third in the AL (no pitcher).

  10. Cheese Chad

    I think it’s funny that the report came out that the Angels were among the top 3 to land Tanaka and then their GM comes out and says that they didn’t even have (or were schedule to have) a meeting with Tanaka and co.

  11. Soda Popinski

    I’m not sure if this was discussed already, but Javy Baez nabbed the #2 shortstop behind Bogarts over at MLBpipeline. They put him ahead of Lindor and Correa. That’s pretty impressive.

  12. Noah_I

    The last time there was a group of young shortstop prospects this strong was back when A-Rod/Jeter/Nomar were just coming up.

  13. Joshua Edwards

    A-Rod’s case and the Yanks payroll have brought up the discussion of team responsibility for players who use PEDs.

    I’m of two minds on it. On the one hand, some teams are screwed by PED-using players because of lost performance due to their suspension, not to mention the negativity, stigma and attention the player’s actions put on the team. That’s a punishment built in with the crime.

    On the other hand, didn’t the team benefit from a player’s PED-use prior to getting caught? (Or perhaps benefit while the player never gets caught?) Isn’t the team responsible for promoting a clean baseball game, too? Isn’t it at least possible, if not likely, that teams can turn a blind eye, and benefit from enhanced player abilities?

    So I think there’s a line in there somewhere and I don’t know the best way to define it or enforce it.

    But I do believe teams have some role in protecting the game and monitoring their own players. Moreover, it seems intuitive that teams must bear responsibility for any activities that promote the use or culture of PEDs in their clubhouse/among its own players. Handing out D.A.R.E. t-shirts isn’t preventative maintenance.

    That said, players can and often do cheat on their own (and may ultimately hurt the team, one way or another). So individuals who choose to use are still the basis of the problem.

    But considering the machismo of the locker room, the millions of dollars at stake, and the competitive mentality and drive to win that has made some players feel that if they aren’t using PEDs then they’re “not trying,” I think it’s fair to say we need a more balanced approach.

    Teams and players can both contribute to the problem. Both sides of that reality should be addressed in the solutions.

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